Jets vow to be ready for Eagles' unique tush push formation

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Thursday, October 12, 2023

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets, vowing to be ready for the "tush push," know exactly how they will respond if the Philadelphia Eagles try the formation Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

"If the quarterback carries the ball," coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday, "we've got to give him 11 kisses."

As if they don't have enough to worry about, the Jets (2-3) now must prepare for the Eagles' unorthodox and somewhat controversial quarterback sneak -- the one where Jalen Hurts is pushed forward by teammates lined up behind him.

The Eagles were successful on four of six pushes in last week's 23-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. For the season, they've converted 13 of 16 into first downs or touchdowns -- an 81.3% success rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The leaguewide rate is roughly the same, but the Eagles have turned the play into a phenomenon. Meanwhile, the Jets have defended it three times -- twice by the New England Patriots, once by the Buffalo Bills -- and they stopped it once.

"It's a unique style, just the way they get down there, in that rugby stance, and get low," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "It's just really hard for defenses to get under and get that push. That's really the main thing. Besides that, they've got three guys behind and pushing him, so it starts the defense off at a disadvantage."

What adds to the degree of difficulty, Saleh said, is the Eagles have added wrinkles to the play. He said they can run reverses, stretch plays and pop passes off the tush push formation, giving the defense plenty to think about.

Ideally, the Jets would like to have six defensive linemen on the field -- more size to handle the pushers -- but it's not always easy to get the big people into the game, Saleh said. The reason is because the Eagles can run the formation out of no-huddle, preventing the defense from substituting. That means the defense could get caught with its nickel personnel on the field, hardly ideal for a short-yardage situation.

"[I have] a lot of respect for it because other teams are trying to do it, too, but the reality is they're really good at it," Saleh said.

The Jets will prepare for the tush push in practice, but they can't simulate it at full speed because the scrum could lead to injuries. It's better suited for the walk-through, where they can work on their alignments.

"You just study film and then you walk through it and then, when it comes to live bullets, you shoot your shot," defensive tackle Al Woods said.

Saleh and the players said the Eagles are good at it because they have an outstanding offensive line and a quarterback with power and speed.

Added Saleh: "It feels like the quarterback is wearing a bulletproof vest when you look at him. He's got all that padding on."

The tush push has sparked controversy, with some saying it leads to injuries. The NFL's competition committee analyzed the play last spring and might revisit it after the season, when more injury data becomes available. Saleh was noncommittal on whether it should be banned.

"If it's a safety issue, I'd say so, but it's just a scrum," Saleh said. "Like I've said, if you ain't got no haters, you ain't popping. So, there are a lot of people hating on their play because it works, but no one else can seem to make it work to their efficiency. So bravo to them. They found a play."

Statistically, the Jets' short-yardage defense hasn't been effective. On third-and-1 plays, they've allowed five first downs and one touchdown, per ESPN Stats & Information.

"The best way to stop it," Mosley said of the tush push, "is to stay out of third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 and on the goal line."

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